It has been a particularly busy couple of months which somewhat explains my silence on here. I am aware that I’ve left Hudson Taylor in the middle of his life- and I plan to return to him soon. But I was conscious a couple of weeks ago at having been somewhat grumpy and grouchy in a few meetings (apologies to those who were at them…) so put a three day break in my diary last week. I picked up a rover ticket that enabled me to explore much of the south of England and a bit of Wales so enjoyed visiting Bath, Salisbury, Bournemouth, Lymington, Yarmouth, the Needles on the Isle of Wight, Weymouth, Bradford-on-Avon, Bristol and Newport. It left me with the conclusion that town planners need to put stations nearer to town centres (I’m not sure I ever found the centre of Bristol) but, overall, it was a really good rest.
Travelling around by train gave me the opportunity to read (as well as write the sermon for Sunday morning!) I thoroughly looking at John Hindley’s small book Serving without Sinking. It is a simple read- this is not ground breaking theology. But it deals with a problem that I think is very real- for many of us service of Christ can take on a real sense of drudgery. When we start we are full of love for Jesus and a desire to serve Him but that can easily dissipate. “I often feel weary, discouraged or bitter in serving Jesus,” he writes. And he notes that his experience doesn’t seem to be unusual- “We often seem to be a burdened, joyless bunch.”
The antidote that he provides comes largely by way of reminder. There is nothing very new here- but there is plenty that I am inclined to forget. Jesus invites those who are weary and heavy laden to come to him for rest. His yoke is light. Somehow if we wander around as those who are burdened then we have forgotten what it is to come to Christ. Hindley reminds us that we are served by Christ before we serve Him, that Jesus calls us friends and makes us His bride, that we are sons of a loving heavenly Father. We are deeply loved by God and so our service is simply the overflow of the love that we have received.
Two thoughts particularly struck me and I pass them on in case they are helpful for others who are serving Jesus in the church.
Firstly, it is great to know Jesus. If I remember that then service will be a joy (“When we serve as Jesus’ friends, we find our serving changes. We don’t serve because we have to or need to, but because we want to. We are His friends. He loves us. And the joy returns.”) It is only in delighting in knowing the Son who calls us into a relationship with Him that there is power to serve. It reminded me of a comment I heard from Mike Reeves at the Pastoral Refreshment Conference. Often when serving Christ we become conscious of stress and pressure so we need to seek refuge. However, our tendency is to wrap Jesus up with the pressure so we are inclined to think that we need some other form of refuge. However, the reality is that Jesus is the one who offers us refuge and rest even from the pressures of ministry. My life and ministry will be most joyful when I grasp that to live is Christ- and service is simply the overflow of that.
Secondly, I was reminded of the importance of love. It is so easy for us to get turned in on ourselves and begin to look no further than out own concerns. That is a real temptation for me when I am tired and stressed. But we are called to love. We are loved by a God who looked beyond Himself to the good of His creatures. We sit under a constant supply of His love. That is what enables us to begin to love Him and love others. I need to remember the centrality of love.
So I was grateful for time away which enabled me to reflect on these things. As I say- nothing new here but plenty that I forget so easily. Maybe if service has become a struggle for you then this book might be worth a read. And then you can reflect again on the greatness of Jesus who loves you and invites you to come to Him for rest.